There is no doubt that our lives have been changed by modern conveniences. Appliances like the washing machine and dishwasher are time-savers that allow us to complete our chores more quickly so that we can enjoy gadgets like i-pods, cell phones and remote controls that instantly download movies to high-definition flat screen TVs. Some of these innovations, however, really don’t seem to serve any useful purpose. Does using a motorized tie rack, banana slicer or spinning lollipop really improve the quality of our lives?
While a motorized spinning lollipop may not have improved the quality of your life, it certainly improved the lives of the mail carriers who developed it. These creative mail carriers were discontent with the traditional lollipop eating experience and wanted to improve it. They believed that lollipops just weren’t as fun as they could be. Sure, there were lollipops with gum or candy in the center like Blow Pops and Tootsie Pops. There were also those big, colorful, swirly lollipops that took the better part of your childhood to consume. In their heyday, these lollipops were new and exciting, but they had become mundane. The introduction of the spinning lollipop brought fun and excitement back to eating a lollipop. No longer would lollipop enthusiasts need to bore themselves with the tedious licking and sucking necessary to enjoy this confection. With this new candy delivery system, people could just stick out their tongues, relax and let the lollipop do all the work. That’s much more fun!
In the mid 1990s, John Osher of Cap Toys bought the spinning lollipop invention and began marketing Spin Pops as part of an “interactive” line of candy. Isn’t all candy interactive? It goes in your mouth – that is the interaction. In a world full of political correctness and sugar-coated reality, considering the act of eating a lollipop “interactive” deludes people into thinking that they are doing something active rather than being passive consumers of candy. Any energy expended when eating a lollipop is limited to unwrapping the packaging then moving the lollipop in and, occasionally out, of one’s mouth. It’s not exactly a strenuous activity that warrants motorized assistance.
Having a lollipop that rotates as you stick out your tongue has to be the pinnacle of laziness. Could something that seems to contribute to the downfall of society have anything redeeming to offer? Surprisingly, it did. You may even be benefitting from its contributions. After selling Cap Toys for over 100 million dollars, John Osher, began working with a group of designers using the spinning lollipop technology. Together, they developed the Spin Brush spinning toothbrush as a way to bring affordable, motorized dental hygiene to the masses; people who would have otherwise had to spend their entire lives brushing their teeth manually. (Insert horrified gasp here.) Spinning toothbrushes existed prior to this development, but they were expensive by toothbrush standards, about $80 each. Why should the wealthy be the only ones to have pearly white teeth? Apparently, the executives at Procter and Gamble felt that even people with modest incomes should be entitled to mechanically enhanced dental hygiene. They bought Osher’s company for hundreds of millions of dollars.
This inexpensive, spinning toothbrush revolution may have led to improved dental hygiene and less toothbrushing induced elbow fatigue, but things are beginning to spin out of control. Last week, an MSNBC.com article with an unnerving title, “FDA Warns of Toothbrushes that Mess Up your Face”, caught my attention. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer safety update for a specific brand of spinning toothbrushes because of an uptick in toothbrush related injuries. People using these mechanical toothbrushes reported serious injuries: chipped teeth, cuts to the cheeks and gums and burns from the batteries. If the bristles fall out or snap off, as they have been known to do, they can become a choking hazard. To minimize the likelihood of injury while brushing your teeth, the FDA recommends closely adhering to the manufacturers’ instructions on proper use of the spinning toothbrush. That is, if you can find any instructions on the narrow package. In addition, they suggest never biting down on the head of your toothbrush while brushing; excellent advice whether you are using a manual or mechanical toothbrush.
Our lives are hectic, so we look for ways to save time and be more efficient, even in our daily, basic hygiene routines. Living in a “there’s an app for that”, over-automated world, we assume that anything motorized, mechanical or electronic will make tasks easier. We forget that sometimes the simplest way to do something doesn’t involve batteries. Maybe we should all just slow down, enjoy a lollipop then brush our teeth the old-fashioned way.